Workforce Development: Many definitions exist around this topic in the equipment industry


Workforce Development. It’s interesting how many definitions exist around this topic in our industry. Everyone reading this article has somewhat of a different take on what it means, and even though they are different, there’s something right in all of them. The definition we have found that best describes workforce development is a combination of social services, community support, job training and education that supports an individual for success in the workforce.

Another significant definition is that of Workforce Development Systems. Workforce Development Systems is defined as – a system that encompasses the organizations and activities that prepare people for employment, help workers advance in their careers, and ensure a skilled workforce.

The first definition, workforce development, is easy to consider and even agree with. The second, workforce development systems, is much more difficult for us to realize. Why? Two reasons. 1. We are more interested in ensuring someone has what they need to perform a duty than in developing their skills. 2. We don’t have a systematic approach to developing our staff. Why are these things important to my dealership? Because they are significant in the separation of high-performing dealer organizations from low- to average-performing dealer organizations.

Consider this. When you look at our industry’s overarching approach to workforce development, we run 15 to 20 years behind other leading industries. And most organizations that have difficulty in this area have a very reactive approach. They consider the investment a necessary evil and are checking a box to show completion, rather than developing people.

When I say reactive, I mean the need for development is addressed when something falls apart, or the lack of development in that skill set causes a major issue. The reaction is to throw something at the issue and hope it has a positive impact, or at least, contains it. The bigger issue is, instead of learning from the disappointment of that approach, many continue to place Band-Aids on gaping holes, hoping they can hold it together long enough to get them through it.

We have discussed for years how many dealer organizations have a love-hate relationship with employee development through training or consulting initiatives. Most of the time, it is because they have never discovered a system for implementation or developed a consistent standard organizationally. Dealers and dealership leaders then become firemen, chasing smoke in the organization, and putting out fires wherever they arise instead of addressing the root cause and mitigating as many of the random pop-up issues as possible.

Development is viewed as a necessary evil because it HAS to be done on some levels. Most low-to-average dealer organizations look at employee investment as something they HAVE to do, so it’s not as much about improving employees’ skill sets as it is satisfying a requirement, which covers checking the box. But by not developing an employee’s skill set, you are throwing water on a random fire.

The combination of these issues exposes the reason why many struggle to maintain a high-quality staff or attract high-quality talent. Obviously, these pieces aren’t the end-all-be-all, especially when considering some of the geographical areas our dealers service, however they DO bring to the surface the most common underlying attitude from dealers on employee development and performance issues.

By contrast, there is a paradigm shift in high-performing dealerships from reactive thinking. High-performing dealers have learned to be proactive and to invest in their employees and realize those two things together help guide their organization to success. Higher-performing dealer organizations and their approach to workforce development execute two critical pieces. One, proactively identifying developmental needs, and two, providing avenues for employees to improve their skill sets. They offer a multifaceted approach which often includes in-house, manufacturer and third-party providers for employees to seek out and fulfill their need to grow.

Most have also created definitive paths for employees to get from where they are to where they want to be. They create a culture where employees feel like the dealer organization is investing in their overall development, which creates greater loyalty and often results in higher performance from the employee base, which becomes a constant that pulls the organization toward greater success.

We need to be as conscious of our employees’ personal development as we are in their organizational development. Recognizing personal development is vital to the success of any organization’s plan for employee satisfaction and recruiting and retaining high quality talent.

Here are a couple more thoughts I would share. One of the questions we often address is about a small organization’s ability to provide employee development adequately. Some of the most progressive dealers in workforce development are small to mid-sized organizations. Size shouldn’t be a determining factor in whether or not you build out a workforce development system.  Large or small, you can do it, and you should make it a priority. You must take the step, and if you don’t know how, find someone who can point you in the right direction.

If you are in an area where quality talent is hard to find, and the best you have are average employees, you must do all you can to help them reach their fullest potential. The goal should be to elevate every employee to their highest level. If you can do that, you will see success. Retaining talent seems to get harder every year and attracting the right people sometimes seems almost impossible. However, one could argue it is not the people or talent pool who are average. Instead, it is the career pathing and personal development provided through our dealer organizations.

With consolidation, growth, retirement, the evolution of the business, new customer demands, and a variety of other things, having the right people, doing the right job, is vital to our success. It is more than having the right person doing the right job. It’s also making sure the right person has access to the proper training and development opportunities to do the job right. NAEDA conducted an industry Workforce Development study a few months ago, which tells where we are as an industry regarding industry needs, dealer investment in training, and training sources.

While the dollars spent on training are still significant in most dealerships, the survey confirmed a large majority of training dollars are spent on technical training like product training, technician requirements and meeting manufacturer standards. We know these are necessary, but they don’t facilitate the complete need of our employees’ personal and professional development or the dealership’s growth.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO? Here are a few things you can do to improve your dealer organization’s workforce development.

    1. Find out how engaged your employees are in your organization and the people issues that are reducing efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
    1. Survey all employees for feedback on their experience moving through those channels as a new employee and a tenured employee.
      1. Skill gaps
      2. Workforce resources
      1. Recruiting
      2. Onboarding
      3. Retaining
      4. Employee development
      5. Succession
      1. Monitor
      2. Evaluate
      3. Revise
    1. Using a consulting service to help you evaluate will come with a fee, but what is it costing you to continue to do what you are doing?

Article Written By Michael Piercy

MICHAEL PIERCY is the vice president of dealer development for NAEDA. He has over 20 years’ experience in organizational leadership training and development and succession planning. Piercy joined the association in 2015 to help build the Dealer Institute as a complete solution for industry training and consulting needs. Along with DI Trainers, Piercy was instrumental in developing the library of training and consulting opportunities DI offers dealer organizations today. His current role, leading NAEDA’s Dealer Institute, allows him and his team to guide dealer organizations through training and consultative initiatives, as well as merger, acquisition, and succession planning.




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